Eastern Europeans living in west Cumbria were subjected to racial abuse within hours of the UK’s Brexit decision being announced.

The two frightening but unconnected confrontations – one in Workington and the other in Maryport - involved the yobs telling their victims that they should go back to Europe, say Cumbria police.

Senior officers have now appealed for witnesses while the county’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall has issued a strong statement saying the force will not tolerate hate crime.

The first incident happened at noon in Ellenfoot Drive, Maryport, last Friday, June 24 - the day the EU referendum result was declared.

A man, thought to be in his 40s, was seen verbally abusing his victim.

The second confrontation was in Clay Street, Workington, at the Grisedale General Store just before 9pm that day.

The victim was a 36-year-old man, and the offender a man aged 18 or over.

Reacting to the incidents – which came as the country saw a sharp rise in hate crimes nationally – Mr McCall said: “Any crime is unacceptable but hate crime in particular has such a dramatic impact on people’s lives, and it undermines our communities.

“I would strongly encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed a hate crime or hate incident to come forward and report it and I can assure you it will be treated seriously. This is the only way we can stamp out hate crime in the county.”

The senior Cumbrian police officer who leads the force’s efforts to tackle hate crime is Detective Chief Inspector Roy Ledingham.

He said: “Hate crime will not be tolerated in this county and any allegation will be fully investigated.

“Such crimes can leave a long-lasting effect on the victim and there is simply no excuse for someone to be subjected to such abuse.”

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Labour MP Andy Burnham told Prime Minister David Cameron that there had been a 57 per cent surge in hate crime in the week since the referendum.

Workington-based MEP Julie Ward fears the Brexit vote is fuelling racism.

“Since the result was announced on June 24 there has been a sharp increase in racist incidents on the street and online, in our schools and workplaces,” she said.

“It seems the success of the Leave campaign has emboldened racists and the far-right.”

Police want anyone who witnessed either of the incidents or who has information about other hate crimes to call them on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively, hate crime can be reported online at www.cumbria.police.uk or by visiting one of the 49 Hate Incident Reporting Centres lin the county.